Last Day at TNT

I certainly enjoyed working at the TNT conference in Bismarck this week, especially being able to attend the entire conference — learning as well as teaching.  My video games session keeps getting better and the wikis session rocked.  It was especially helpful to be able to share some personal experience with editing Wikipedia articles, and especially drawing attention to the discussions that parallel article developments.

Butler Map
This map is actually a spreadsheet that students can use to comment on specific locations
I’m not going to use the “E” word here, but I saw part of Cindy Solberg’swonderful session about developing stand-alone applications with PowerPoint.  I’m constantly amazed at what educators do with Microsoft Office as a platform, tricking it out to create learning experiences for students.  Perhaps the best person at this sort of DIY product invention is Tammy Worcester.  I’ve seen Tammy work her wizardry in conference halls, with teachers in every chair and sitting on every square foot of the floor, writing down every word.

In the 1990s, I worked with Al Rogers and Greg Butler in some of Greg’s efforts to promote laptop programs back then.  His model was Windows computers running MS Office, and his methods were tricking out all kinds of inventive applications from the productivity tool.  One that impressed me greatly, was placing a map of South America into a spreadsheet as a background, so that the columns and rows were imposed on top of the map.  Then resize the columns and rows so that they are small squares.  Then ask students to label major cities and landforms on the continent by adding comments to the spreadsheet cells on top of them, so that clicking that cell would cause the comment label and description to pop out. 

I was very happy to stay through the end of the conference and see Chris O’Neal’s keynote.  I’d forgotten how funny he is, and he teaches too.  There was a lot of content to his presentation, stories, videos, and he tailored it to accent many of the ideas that I shared in my opening keynote.  It was very well done, and had the entire audience’s attention for the whole hour — quite a feat for the end of a conference — at the beginning of Summer vacation.

One of the high school honors students quotes that I captured was:

“There’s not really an avenue at school for me to share, or publish my own stuff, or especially get feedback from people all over — That’s really the only reason I rush home to do MySpace so much.”

Chris O'NealI was especially taken with his suggestion that if you have been asked to appeal to your school board, county commissioners, legislative education committee — or whatever, then don’t bring a class of kids to show what they’re doing with technology.  He said that we should learn about the members of the committee, learn if they have school aged children or grand children, find out what school they attend, and learn what’s going on with technology in their school.  Then suggest, are your children, Mrs. Green, learning these 21st century skills in her classrooms, where they only have one computer and have to share a projector with 12 other classrooms, where they science textbook is six years old, and many of the most up-to-date science and health information resources on the Internet are blocked?  He confessed that this borderlines stalking, but I think that the point was well made.  To appeal to people, you have to make it personal.

Great job Chris.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.